BHS Cheerleaders Aim for Success at TVL Competition
Asst. Coach Paige Philbin with Head cheerleading coach Tracey Elliott
Tracey Elliott is in her first year as Bellingham High’s cheerleading coach, but she’s no stranger to the activity or what it takes to build a squad that not only plays a supporting role for student-athletes but also is capable of competing at pressure-packed league and regional events.
Elliott, who has lived in Bellingham for 20 years, has coached and directed programs at Bishop Feehan, King Philip, Fontbonne Academy, Holliston and Hopedale. She guided Bishop Feehan to the regionals once, and her Holliston teams enjoyed three appearances in regional competitions.
“The primary attributes I look for in building a strong team are work ethic, whether the candidate is a team player, athleticism, a coachable nature, a willingness to learn and adjust, and an energetic approach,” said Elliott. “This year’s group at Bellingham exemplifies these traits, which are crucial if a squad hopes to perform well and score high at league, regional and state competitions.”
The 37-year-old Elliott has settled on a roster of 16: seniors Vanessa Kutcher (captain) and Brooke McCann; juniors Julia Thibault (captain), Alyssa Provost and Kiara Metiver; sophomores Alivia Dussault, Kaley Hammon and Tanner Cross; freshmen Jessica Walsh, Katelyn Laughlin, Kathleen Gallagher and Casey Montgomery; and eighth-graders Meghan Thorell, Kaitlyn Little, Alicia Rovedo and Sophie Shea.
Elliott, who is Bellingham High’s third cheerleading coach in four years, is acutely aware that her team has strengths, but she also recognizes there’s room for improvement. “We’ve got about six solid tumblers, but we need more; our kids can adjust to new concepts; their work ethic is solid; and they’re energetic, intense and supportive of each other,” Elliott emphasized. “Where we need to improve is in our tumbling routines and our strength and conditioning. Our confidence can also be higher. That comes in developing a belief that they can be successful in trying new things. At times, I need to reinforce their confidence level.”
The veteran coach will be working diligently to smooth out any wrinkles before two key dates this month. On Sunday, Oct. 23, the team will compete at the Tewksbury Invitational, then will match up with familiar foes at the Tri Valley League competition on Saturday, Oct. 29, in Medway.
“The competition in Tewksbury will be a tune-up for the TVL event,” Elliott said. “We’ll perform routines and stunts and we’ll be analyzing the judges’ score sheets to see what areas need to be improved. The top three teams at the TVL meet advance to regional competition, but to project what kind of score we need really depends on how other squads perform. To advance, it’s important to be sharp in tumbling and strong in stunts and maintain a high skill level.”
Elliott’s captains—Kutcher and Thibault—are veterans of the program, and she’s pleased with the way both have demonstrated leadership. “Vanessa and Julia are leaders by example and by being vocal,” Elliott said. “They respect the sport and they respect their school. When I’m busy with paperwork or some specific issue, they run practice. Both are athletic, flexible and open to new ideas. Another plus is our assistant coach, Paige Philbin, who was one of my cheerleaders at Hopedale.”
Elliott has experience not only in regional competition, but also at the national level. She works at Express Cheer Force (all-star cheerleading) in Milford. Girls from ages 5-18 enroll at their age levels and compete. “We’ve had three teams finish first, second and third nationally at three levels,” Elliott said. “I also run the youth program (Bellingham Falcons) for cheerleaders in the American Youth Football and Cheerleading organization.” Elliott started the cheerleading program at her alma mater, Fontbonne Academy, in Milton and has directed four other high school teams. She knows her Bellingham squad will be cheering at home and away football games, for boys home basketball games and possibly girls home basketball games.
She also knows what’s necessary to succeed at the league competition and what’s needed to advance to regional events. Oct. 29 in Medway will be a big challenge for Bellingham’s squad of 16 and also for Tracey Elliott.
The Blackhawk cheerleaders just might emerge as “The Sweet Sixteen.”